By Jim Patten
When President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office Tuesday, 85 local police officers will be part of a force of 4,000 officers from around the country charged with providing security at the inaugural events.
The 85 officers are part of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council's regional response team, which has provided crowd control for the World Series and Democratic National Convention and also the 2004 inauguration of President George Bush.
"It is a national security event," said North Andover police Chief Richard Stanley, NEMLEC's control chief for the regional response team and the SWAT team.
Calling it an "honor and a privilege" to be invited to take part, Stanley said the NEMLEC officers will provide crowd control along the parade route and at some of the inaugural balls.
"The officers will represent our area very well," Stanley said.
He said event planners have taken notice of predictions of a very large turnout — as many as 5 million people — for the event.
"We attended the 55th inaugural for Bush and Cheney and there were far fewer officers involved," Stanley said.
Andover police Lt. William MacKenzie is the commanding officer of the 160-man regional response team. NEMLEC will be one of 83 or 84 agencies from around the country that will be present to help provide security and crowd control, he said.
"That's a lot of people to police," MacKenzie said of the estimated 5 million expected to be on hand for the event.
Planners are always concerned with the possibility that something will happen whether it is a terrorist attack or a riot, he said. And with large crowds there are always medical issues or evacuation issues to deal with, he said.
"The young guys going on the trip are excited. It is a chance to take part in something bigger than their towns and bigger than NEMLEC. It's a global event," he said.
He said the event also would provide the chance to interact with other departments to see how they do things.
Methuen Capt. Thomas Fram, executive officer of the regional response team, didn't make the trip to Washington for the Bush-Cheney inauguration and is looking forward to this trip.
"I feel like it is an honor for me and the team to go down there and help with the security force for the inaugural," Fram said.
He said the group was going to the inauguration to work.
"This is not a vacation," he said. "We will have work to do."
But nevertheless, it is still exciting to be a part of it, Fram said, adding it could be one of the highlights of his law enforcement career.
"This is another mission, but a bigger one," he said.
Stanley said the officers will board a plane Sunday for the trip to Washington and expect to return Wednesday.
When officers taking part in the security operation arrive in Washington, they will be sworn in as deputy U.S. marshals for the events, giving them the powers of arrest in the event they become necessary.
Stanley said swearing the officers in as deputy U.S. marshals also provides indemnification and legal protection if a lawsuit results from the performance of their duties.
"From all our perspectives, sure it is a historic event, but every inauguration is a historic event. It's just another day of work for this team," Stanley said. "We are not there to participate in the celebration, we are there to do a job."
The costs of the trip, lodging and per diem allowances for the officers will be reimbursed by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, which receives money from the federal government to cover the costs associated with the event, Stanley said.
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